Smell

42. 11am. On the left near the back.

A man came on to the bus and sat next to me. He had that familiar, heady smell of the street: the smell of alcohol, tobacco, sweat and resignation working their way through the skin. It’s a pungent and powerful mix. People around us started opening windows – the Londoner’s way to express distaste. No one said anything, but it was clear that the other passengers wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from the smelly intruder. He just sat there, calmly facing the front of the bus and beyond, to wherever he was going.

I didn’t move either. Not because it would just have been too awkward to shift past him, or too obvious why I would want to move. In the intoxicating smell of this man I think I identified a little bit of myself. In this city run on ambition, commerce, confidence-trickery, the bump and grind of different cultures and attitudes, individual despair is never really that far away. A part of me enjoyed being so close to that cliff-edge. Smell has a wonderful ability to cut through the story we tell ourselves about what is going on and to locate the real.

Serious post… next time will be more light-hearted!

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